How To Judge A Fantasy Novel Without Reading a Sentence (Part 1): The Stages of a First-Impression
Tell me if this is at all familiar.
I open the book cautiously. I get past the title page without a problem. So far, so good. The next page is the one I turn with true trepidation. My fears are founded, as I come face to face with a two-page map.
Yeah, this is a map all right. Places I’ve never heard of before or care about at all. Okay, so I’ll suck it up this one time. My friend told me this series was good. I’ll try and ignore the author’s total display of arrogance and his egotistical opinion that his fantasy novel needs a fucking map in the beginning.
Did he include it so I wouldn’t get lost while reading? Is it there because it may come in handy for the reader to see visually where the characters live and where they are traveling? You must be joking.
Of course not, because why would such a great author need to give us a visual aid when he can describe the entire world in such vivid detail, rendering a map completely unnecessary?
I know exactly why there is a map there. It’s there because the author’s imagination is so great, so intensely and vividly realized that mere words cannot contain it. It must be displayed as a generic stock map, in the very beginning of the book, before we read so much as a single word, so that the entire planet may look upon its spellbinding greatness.
Is your book really that special? Is it really that incredible?
I mutter to myself and turn the page. Next I see this:
“Therehereafter Liuiuth Shuii twasth named Regent-Conqueurant of Gond-Purenthia, thee Lady-Whence-Come-From-Beyondeth…”
– From the Appendices of Ugraght’yth, as inscribed by the Disciplines of Tannard’ght
I see the quotation mark, and I skip over to see who it’s credited to. A made-up character. Great. My hands are shaking now, and I try to steady them and turn the page. I know what awaits me. I know exactly what will be at the top of the next page. At this point, it will be a surprise if it’s not there.
Fuck this book, and fuck this writer. I couldn’t give less of a shit at this point. The possibility of the book being good from here on is zero to nothing. If I’m being generous, I’ll just put the book away and never look at it again. If I’m not being generous, I’ll fucking toss that shit in the trash where it belongs.
Why the fuck is this stupid shit in every single fantasy novel? It’s impossible to take it seriously when it looks so amateurish and goofy. No, I don’t give a fuck how many mountains or rivers you’ve made up and given kooky-ass names to. Keep that shit out of there. Who the fuck is this in the quote? I don’t fucking care. Move on! No, I don’t give a shit about your prologue. Get to the fucking story already.
If you need a glossary in the back of your book then you can’t write for shit. Either you’re making too much shit up for the reader to remember, or it’s too hard to understand because it’s incomprehensible garbage that nobody gives two fucks about.
A lot of people probably enjoy the maps, fictitious quotes, and prologues in these fantasy books. More power to you. I hate them, because I actually want to read fantasy from authors who take the genre seriously and don’t let their books lapse into becoming generic and forgettable tripe.
Maybe, one day, only the absolute shittiest of shitty fantasy novelists would even dream of including these elements in their books. As of right now, we have to deal with some legitimately good authors using and abusing these genre crutches. Whether they’ve plagued fantasy because of the author’s lack of confidence in their abilities, or just because they don’t know of any other way to write, hopefully by pointing out how much these cliches and conventions ruin good books we can get these lazy assholes to stop.
Coming soon: Part 2, where we’ll go through and see how some classic fantasy novels hold up to close scrutiny, using a new, cutting edge method I’ve devised.